Zynga and Video Games

Scott Steinberg asks:

“Is Zynga Now A Video Game Company?”

Certainly. Zynga’s as much a video game company as any of the interactive entertainment field’s brightest lights. Of course, given the firm’s primarily business-focused approach to design, it’s also the devil incarnate to some. But the real irony that many people miss is that the outfit may inadvertently be one of the best things to happen to gaming since the invention of the home console.
Scott Steinberg @ kotaku.com

It’s a big article, chock-full of interesting observations. Here’s a sample:

There’s a reason gaming’s most legendary developers continue to defect to the social space, and it’s not six-figure paychecks and lightning-quick development turnaround times alone. As Loot Drop’s Brenda Brathwaite so elegantly pointed out in her GDC rant, the industry is on the verge of a fundamental sea change as social gaming continues to explode in popularity -– even amongst those who wouldn’t consider themselves gamers –- and companies like Zynga are standing on the front lines of what promises to be both revelation and revolution, ushering in an entirely new and different (possibly better) era of game design and development.

Meatcraft: A Real World Minecraft Art Gallery

Meatcraft was a real world art installation by Jeffrey Kam and Cody McCabe, presented at San Jose State University from March 14-17, 2011.


MeatcraftThe show consisted of a minecraft themed gallery, complete with 2 crafting tables, tools, working LED torches, a creeper costume that greeted you at the door, and a fully interactive grass block world in the center. The wall textures, the crafting tables and the center grass block are all to scale (1 meter cubes), to increase immersion and really make you feel like you’re in Minecraft. Clearly the possibilities for a project like this are endless so it was extremely difficult for us not to pursue other ideas we had (Steve costume, pigs, cows, music, automatic day/night cycle, minecarts etc.). For purposes of time and budget, we had to restrict ourselves from getting too crazy.


Via Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

Big wins for University of Houston game design teams

It was a big day for University of Houston computer science department game design teams: Team Big Impact Bear won first place in the U.S. finals, with two other UH teams also placing:

University of Houston design team @ 2011 Imagine Cup

Tackling deforestation, water pollution and poverty earned University of Houston (UH) students top honors in computer game designing at the U.S. finals of the 2011 Microsoft Imagine Cup competition. With the annual contest drawing more than 74,000 of the nation’s brightest technology students to Microsoft’s headquarters, UH made quite an impact with three of its four finalists winning in game design.

Lisa Merkl @ University of Houston

10 Reasons You Need To Play Ace Of Spades

Ace of Spades
Quintin Smith really, really wants you to play Ace of Spades:

10 Reasons You Need To Play Ace Of Spades

Have I got your attention? Then I’ll begin. Ace of Spades is a freeware, multiplayer Minecraft-alike that takes Minecraft’s cuboid building mechanics and drapes a World War 1 setting on top of it, with the end result being a huge, immersive, dynamic game of capture the flag.

On the one hand, you’ve got two teams of sixteen exchanging rifle fire and grenades, trying to push forward and outflank one another. On the other hand, both teams are trying to improve their position by building bunkers, bridges and tunnels. If you want to give it a shot you’ll find the game here and a guide to playing it here. If not, then I’ve assembled ten reasons why you should reconsider your position ….

(1) It quietly one-ups Minecraft by having rudimentary physics.

(2) Building is flexible without being open to abuse.

(3) The tunnels are nauseatingly claustrophobic.

Quintin Smith @ Rock, Paper, Shotgun

Perfection versus Mortality in Games and Simulation

The New Cultural Form: Perfection versus Mortality in Games and Simulation at Rensselaer
Becoming (2007), Silvia Ruzanka+Ben Chang

Willy Nilly’s Surf Shack offers a cure for the idealized virtual world of Second Life. The online shop, a project of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Associate Professor of Arts Ben Chang and collaborators, endows otherwise flawless avatars with real-world foils like clumsiness. A project allowing avatars to visibly age over time is in the works.

The shop is one of several projects Chang uses to explore humanity in technology. Chang, an electronic artist and recently appointed co-director of the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences program at Rensselaer, sees the dialogue between perfection and mortality as an important influence in the growing world of games and simulation.

“There’s this transcendence that technology promises us. At its extreme is the notion of immortality that — with artificial intelligence, robotics, and virtual reality — you could download your consciousness and take yourself out of the limitations of the physical body,” said Chang. “But at the same time, that’s what makes us human: our frailty and our mortality.”

Link @ Rensselaer

Motorcycles out of watch parts

These lovely objects belong in a game somewhere. They really do:

motorcycles out of watch parts, by dkart71

motorcycles out of watch parts by dkart71

Someone, please, make a game where the player constructs a motorcycle made out of watch parts, and then rides to safety:

  • Shrink the player until a wristwatch is the right size for motorcycle parts
  • Drop the player into a magical (high-tech, alien, etc.) wristwatch factory
  • — My person favorite: neo-retro Evil Nazi wristwatch factory
  • Remind the player that watch parts can be assembled into motorcycles
  • Sound the burglar alarm
  • Start winding up the clockwork watchmen, make it loud
  • Remind the player that watchmen are dangerous, and motorcycles go faster than watchmen
  • Every so often, wind up more clockwork watchmen, as incentive for the player to finish that motorcycle ….

If the player doesn’t build a motorcycle in time … well, bad things probably happen … if it were my Evil Nazi Wristwatch factory, I would release the Giant Wind-Up Chattering Teeth … but you have your own kind of fun, and be sure to let me know about it, I’ll award you the Handy Vandal Medal of Supreme Coolness.

Via Boing Boing.

Debugging Techniques

Some useful tips on debugging your code from roel at devmaster.net. This is in response to a question about collision detection in C#, but the same techniques apply to a wide range of situations in game programming.

roel writes: “Use your debugger to find out what happens …. If the problem occurs arbitrarily, this is usually my approach:

  • make your code work deterministically: fixed timesteps, random number generators with fixed seeds;
  • add a frame / iteration counter;
  • add code that detects your problem “player is one pixel above the ground” and then outputs that counter;
  • run your program and remember the value of the counter;
  • add a breakpoint when that counter is reached so that your debugger kicks in in advance of the frame/iteration where the problem occurs;
  • restart your program and wait until the breakpoint is reached;
  • step through it and see what went wrong and fix it.”